Brain Drain from Japan: A New Demographic Challenge?

A/Prof. Nana Oishi1, Professor Yusaku Horiuchi2

1The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, 2Dartmouth College, Hanover, USA

This study analyses the growing outflows of skilled workers from Japan and its potential impacts. In the past decade, the Japanese government has been actively recruiting skilled migrants from overseas through the points-based system and the regional migration scheme. While its efforts have been successful, the number of Japanese professionals who leave the country has also been on the rise. The total number of Japanese citizens who hold permanent residency in other countries hit record high of 51,3750 in 2018. Australia is now the second most popular destination for Japanese permanent residents. What is behind the increase in Japanese emigration, and how do emigrants choose their destinations? What will be the potential emigration level in the future and its implications? Drawing on 32 in-depth qualitative interviews with Japanese skilled immigrants in Australia and the online survey on 1,230 Japanese skilled workers who currently live in Japan, this paper argues that a growing sense of risks and socio-political factors seems to drive many Japanese professionals to move overseas, and this could pose a major demographic challenge for the country in the future.


Nana Oishi is Associate Professor in Japanese Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on migration and diversity. She served on the UN Expert Meeting and various national advisory boards on immigration policies. She is a recipient of Fulbright Scholarship, Government of Canada Award and ISS-OUP Prize.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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